Saturday, January 3, 2009


With permission of Hardgainer, Vol. 7, No. 5 (March-April 1996)

There are many people who just don’t get it. I get letters and phone calls all the time from people looking for some kind of secret or “magic” program. They are usually looking in the wrong direction. Instead of asking how to make their programs harder, and get their poundages heavier, they are looking to get a better “pump,” more “shape,” and more “cuts.” (It seems they have been reading too many “gentlemen’s” magazines.) They make training more complicated than it really is.

Let me repeat: There is only one reason to train with weights—you lift to build muscular size and strength. Period. When you build muscular size and strength, you also get increased strength and thickness of bones, tendons, and ligaments. To do this, you must train progressively, using the heaviest poundages you can handle in perfect form in the basic exercises for the whole body. That’s it! No magic, just hard work.

Most people don’t want to hear about hard work. They will insist that there must be some hidden secret they are missing. If they would simply start lifting, stop talking, and put in several years of heavy and hard training, they would be amazed. Of course it is not easy, but nothing that is worthwhile ever is. To get good results you must pay your dues.

You will see some results after a few months, but what really counts is that you consistently train hard and heavy for the long haul. Heavy and hard training should become part of your lifestyle and be just as basic as brushing your teeth. Nothing to brag about, just a given fact. String several dedicated years together, focus on getting your whole body as strong as it can be, and then you’ll see some real results.

The Pump

A good workout program is not determined by the pump you get. If you train hard and heavy, you may or may not get a good pump. A pump is not important. And it doesn’t feel nearly as good as Arnold said it did. Any exercise with light weights can give you a pump. If you “flap your wings” with little dumbbells, your shoulders may get pumped, but they will not get bigger or stronger. After the pump wears off you will have done little more than burn calories. You must battle the iron, constantly trying to add more weight to the bar, or else you are wasting your time.

I know a guy who regularly misses his Tuesday workout but usually is there on Friday. He’s there each Friday because he wants to “look pumped” for the women when at the bar later that evening. What a joke! He is wasting his time. The sad thing is, there are thousands of guys who think like him. They are lifting for the wrong reasons. They are only externally motivated and do not have the deep “intrinsic” burning desire for size and strength.

You must lift for yourself, not to impress others. If you do not have a strong desire and internal motivation, your chances to put forth the effort required are low. Those who do not have the necessary motivation for hard training are prime suckers for gimmicks, and are the reason why the gimmicks make up a billion dollar industry.

There are many people who think that “poundage doesn’t matter” so long as you get a “good feel” from the weights. They spend their time “feeling and squeezing” comfortable poundages. BS! BS! BS! Get this in your head—poundage matters big time!!! If you want to be a “closet lifter,” i.e., no one knows that you lift weights except you, then keep lifting comfortable poundages for a good feel, and keep “squeezing” till your heart’s content. If you want to get big and strong, and have anyone who sees you know it, then focus on strength.


Cuts, or definition, is simply the lack of body fat covering your muscles. Just because you have low body fat does not mean that you will be defined. You must have muscle already built from heavy training. Otherwise, marathon runners and even Dick Gregory, Bobby Sands and all hunger strikers would have looked cut. You train with weights only to build the muscle. Your fat percentage has got nothing to do with strength training. You do not lift for cuts, or to get “ripped.” This is a hoax and nothing more than exploiting the false theory of spot reduction.

High-rep strength training does not get you more cut. It is simply focused more on muscular endurance. Lower reps are focused on pure strength. This has nothing to do with the fat over the muscle, only the muscle under the fat.

Nutritional Factors

The primary method to reduce body fat is to do cardiovascular exercise and reduce your fat intake. If you are consuming too many calories, your caloric intake will also have to be reduced. Even protein and carbohydrate calories will be stored as fat if you take in more than you need.

To guide you in your nutrition program, never take the advice of someone who works in a health food store. Forget about the pills they recommend that are supposed to burn fat and get you ripped. They are a total waste of money. Health food store employees are usually the worst people to ask questions about nutrition. All they are usually going to do is recite the manufacturer’s hype to sell you all the “snake oil” that they can. People who work in health food stores are usually making close to minimum wage and do not have academic degrees in nutrition. Beware of the term “nutritionist.” Although there are many legitimate professionals who use this term, there are also many “nutritionists” with no academic backgrounds in nutrition. The problem is that, in many states, there is no legal definition of this term, allowing anyone with only an “interest in nutrition” to call themselves “nutritionists.”

For serious nutritional advice, only consult those who have the letters RD after their names (Registered Dietician). If you consult a dietician, find one who has experience working with athletes or high performance individuals. Then the dietician will understand your training demands. When I worked at NASA as an exercise physiologist, we had an excellent RD on the staff. I still use her, in her private practice, for my clients. If you need nutritional advice, it is worth the money to see a good RD.

When you do your strength training, you predominantly exercise fast-twitch muscle fibers, in the anaerobic energy system. These burn ATP/glycogen (carbohydrates). Your muscles and liver need to replenish their carbohydrate storage regularly because it can’t be stored for long periods. It is imperative that you consume a high carbohydrate snack (300-400 calories) approximately two hours before your strength training session. Don’t work out without being “fueled-up,” or you will feel weak and “out of gas” when you train. Your muscles can’t compensate for poor fuel.

Cardio/aerobic fitness training primarily burns fat as a fuel, and works the slow-twitch muscle fibers. It is not as critical to be “fueled-up” for your cardio training due to the constant availability of stored fat. (I’m talking about training for cardio fitness and fat burning, not a high-intensity marathon where you would need to carbo load.)

Remember, you only lift to build muscular size and strength, or you are wasting your time. The best way to build muscular size and strength is heavy and hard training, focusing on the basic exercises, with an equal emphasis on pushing and pulling for the whole body. You must pay your dues.

There are no secrets—just hard work, consistently done throughout the years.
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